Official inauguration of new building of Belarus' Supreme Court
The official inauguration of a new building of the Supreme Court took place in Minsk on 5 April. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko was joined by Supreme Court Chairman Valentin Sukalo and Minsk Mayor Anatoly Sivak to cut the ribbon.
Aleksandr Lukashenko was given a tour of the new building of the Supreme Court, saw its halls and offices. The Belarusian head of state is expected to take part in a meeting to discuss the activity of general courts.
The Chairman of the Supreme Court updated the head of state on the novelties, including new technology.
“I wish you every success,” the President said.
The major criterion which people use to assess the activity of courts is social justice. It is not only a guarantee of people’s trust in courts and justice, but also an important part of the ideology of the Belarusian state, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he attended a meeting at the new building of the Supreme Court to discuss ways to improve the activity of general courts.
"I always say: people, people, people. I am doing this not for some kind of populism. I do not need it. We really work for people. If we say that the state is for the people, we must implement this formula. Social justice is not only a guarantee of public confidence in justice, but also the most important component of the ideology of the Belarusian state. The demand for this justice is enormous, not only in the Slavic states, but throughout the world,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
“People must be confident that they will find their rights and legitimate interests protected in the court. This means that they will be heard and that a well-reasoned decision will be taken regarding their life situation. It is very important that people understand why the court makes such a decision. People who come to court must trust in its ability to establish the truth. Then they will not have to turn to the President for help,” said the head of state.
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that judges need to feel free in making decisions: not to be afraid of prosecutors, not to depend on the opinion of investigators, not to look to the local authorities. They must be guided only by the law. The Belarusian leader said that no one can blame him, even having certain levers and powers, for pressing judges in any case. “My main function is, on the contrary, to protect you from any pressure when court decisions are made. I know that such things happen. Those who work here know my reaction,” said the head of state.
He added that the President is also responsible for the appointment and dismissal of judges. Moreover, the law enforcement agencies have never detained judges or conducted criminal intelligence operations against them without the knowledge of the head of state. “This has never happened and will never happen. However, the President sometimes receives certain complaints. I am informed by the law enforcement agencies as well. When I see that the situation is serious and needs to be dealt with, as I often say, multiply by two [in regard to the responsibility for breaching the law]. It is unacceptable for judges who guard the law to violate it,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
“People should always be in the center of your attention. Someone needs to rethink the vision of their profession, be more attentive to people, and sometimes put themselves in the shoes of those people. Only such a court will be truly authoritative and fair. You cannot envisage everything in the law. Here where judges must step forward with their experience, honesty, decency and integrity,” the Belarusian leader said.
Belarus President said the most important task of the judicial system is to build a strong personnel baseas. According to the head of state, many issues in this area of expertise have already been resolved. The prestige of the profession and the appeal of judicial jobs rose; the state made sure that judicial employees have decent salaries.
“It is time to talk about the quality of the judicial staff. Their educational level and high professionalism are essential for efficient work of the judiciary. First of all, we need to dramatically revise the approaches to judicial candidates. Candidates running for judicial offices should have exceptionally high standards of morality, breadth of knowledge and intelligence, as well as life experience. This is an objective requirement of the modern-day society,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The Supreme Court should act strategically, stay ahead of the game, and take the initiative. The President did not give his take on the minimum age for becoming a judge. “It is up to you to make this decision. It is rare, yet some 25-year olds are responsible, smart, and educated enough to become judges. However, you should necessarily have certain life experience if you have to take decisions that can change someone’s life. The age by which one can acquire the necessary experience greatly varies. Therefore, we need to think over the criteria for selecting judicial candidates,” the head of state said.
The President emphasized the need to improve the professional level of judges currently in office. With this in mind, the Institute of Retraining of Judges was set up. “However, as far as I know, you are dissatisfied with its work. Studies are often perfunctory. Training programs are sometimes out of touch with the reality and future needs. It is time to dramatically change the way this institute operates. We need to invite the most educated, experienced and well-trained specialists, practitioners and psychologists to work there,” the President noted.
The head of state noted that in the course of reforming the court system the Supreme Court was granted authority to decide on organizational support, human resources, and physical infrastructure of Belarusian courts. The Supreme Court is in charge of all aspects of their operation. “I think no country has a system like that. I made the decision because a court system has to be truly independent. We shouldn’t tie it to some aspen pole to prevent it from getting away. I don’t need it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The head of state stressed: “The supreme judicial authority has to act strategically, stay ahead of the game, and, most significantly, take the initiative. It is very important for us.” Aleksandr Lukashenko encouraged Belarusian judges to keep an eye on processes going on in the society, particularly in the wake of their rulings in order to determine what needs to be adjusted.
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed: “Analytical work should also become a priority for the Supreme Court. It is necessary to fully engage the powerful intellectual potential the court has.”
First of all, Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced, all Belarusian courts should follow unified approaches to enforcing the law. To accomplish the goal, it is necessary to improve the performance of the Plenum and the Presidium of the Supreme Court. Their views should shape the practice of all the law enforcement agencies.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said he would like the new Palace of Justice to regularly host events involving not only Belarusian judges but representatives of other government agencies. This large-scale building was designed to host such meetings, conferences, and roundtable sessions. “You see we’ve built this palace with room to grow for a reason. I’ve rejected several drafts. First of all, I wanted the building to resemble the Palace of Independence. I wanted the same style. I wanted everything here to be genuinely Belarusian,” the President explained.
The head of state also reminded that the Supreme Court had recognized the need to develop a uniform Civil Procedure Code. “But we’ve made no headway into accomplishing this goal over the course of five years. It is understandable that not only the judges should be involved in this work. But since you were the ones to come up with the intuitive and admitted it has to be done, then you should give a nudge to other agencies or at least give me a tip,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He is convinced it is time to step up efforts in order to finish the development of the Civil Procedure Code soon.
The President encouraged top officials of the Supreme Court to analyze what was left unfulfilled in the course of the court system reform. The head of state mentioned some of the gaps: “I know that mediation – the opportunity for the sides to reach an amicable agreement before a court ruling – is not very popular. It is an important thing. If it was popular, you would have less work to do. The demand for court of arbitration is low. Let’s try it at last.” Apart from that, according to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus needs a publicly available digital databank of court rulings.
Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned the country-wide anti-corruption campaign. “I cannot say that corruption has made significant inroads into the judicial system. However, paradoxically, judges deliver verdicts on corruption cases and at the same time some of them break the law, too. Over the past years, six colleagues of yours were convicted of corruption. I cannot say that we have screened the entire system for corruption, but some facts were revealed. You know that many more people compromised their reputation and were fired for that,” the President said.
In his words, it certainly puts the entire judiciary in a bad light; though the absolute majority of judges are honest and hard-working people. At the same time, Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the situation in the Belarusian judicial system is much better than that in a number of other countries, including in the neighboring states.
“Strong action against corruption is a matter of honor for the very judicial system. The reputation of the judicial personnel relies on their integrity. People susceptible to wrongdoing, people with sticky fingers, should be identified and got rid of fast, because it can only get worse. In this regard I support the position of the Supreme Court chairman who approaches some incidents even in a tougher way than the President [though I have zero tolerance against corruption]. And this is right,” the Belarusian leader added.